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Initiative ignites passion for rural scientific education

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-06-15 12:45
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On the playground of a town school in Tanghe county in Central China's Henan province, a bus full of science kits stops by, drawing a crowd of pupils eager to explore what is inside.

Soon, several robots are carefully unloaded from the bus and begin dancing with consistent humanlike moves. The children watch cheerfully, bursting into laughter as one of the robots accidentally falls.

The bus was not a performance troupe of any kind but rather a mobile science class jointly organized by the Ministry of Education, the China Science and Technology Museum and the social media platform Douyin, aiming to sow seeds of passion for science among children in the country's vast rural areas.

Since February, thanks to the joint initiative, scientists, science educators and science museum staff have walked into 18 town schools in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Henan and Gansu provinces.

Astrophysicist Wu Xiangping, who has traversed China's remote middle and western regions for popular science work, says that rural children are just as curious as their urban peers in science classes, calling for more scientific education resources in remote areas.

In May last year, the education ministry and other departments released a document on the country's plans to strengthen scientific education in primary and secondary schools, vowing to ensure that a more sound system will be in place in three to five years.

Lyu Guofan, chairman of the Henan Association for Science and Technology, says that rural areas are mostly faced with a shortage of qualified teachers and equipment for scientific education.

A survey conducted by the ministry in 2021 covering 31 provincial-level regions across the country showed that science teachers at primary schools mostly lack related educational backgrounds.

In June 2021, the State Council issued an action plan for improving the scientific quality of nationals from 2021 to 2035, vowing to expand the recruitment of college students majoring in scientific education and strengthen online training of science teachers. According to the document, 100,000 science tutors would be trained each year at the grassroots level.

Many schools have been exploring their own methods for improving scientific education. Some experts suggest that schools start with real situations in the countryside, such as learning more about farm crops and poultry as a first step.

Zhang Jiantao, a teacher at a town school in Gushi county, Henan, gained notable fame for his novel science classes by turning rubbish bins into drones and water bottles into "water-propelled rockets".

A former mathematics teacher, Zhang volunteered to focus on teaching science to the school's more curious students, who are mostly left behind by their city-bound working parents in the care of grandparents.

"The kids love conducting experiments," Zhang says.

"After doing experiments together, they are more open to me and focus better in classes."


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